Theories and Histories of Architectural Preservation

This document is a syllabus reflecting course content developed for "Theories and Histories of Architectural Preservation." by Heghnar Watenpaugh for MIT.

Course description

This graduate seminar addresses the critical issues involved in the practice of preserving architectural forms from the past. Concepts such as "Tradition," "Heritage," "Patrimony" and "Monument" are examined in the context of debates on memory, the historical imagination, the variable meaning of the visible past, imperial and national identities. Major theoretical interventions by Riegl, Ruskin, Viollet-Le-Duc and others, and their legacy are studied. We will also consider the institutions and professionalization of the practice of preservation. Case studies from the West as well as the non-West range from interventions into urban areas, to abandoned settlements, to archeaological sites, to museological and exhibitionary spaces. These issues are considered in the pre-modern and modern periods, as well as in relation to the contemporary global tourist industry and its implications for the conceptualization and the commodification of “traditional” environments and architectural “masterpieces”.


  • Jukka Jokilehto, A History of Architectural Conservation (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999)
  • Nicholas Stanley Price et al, eds. Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1996)
  • Michael Herzfeld, A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town (Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991)


  • Introduction
  • “Patrimony” 2: Bureaucratic modernity
  • Ruskin, Viollet-Le-Duc et al : Close Readings
  • “Monument” and Riegl
  • Colonialism and the Preservation of Urban Heritage
  • Local Debates, Global Debates. Preservation and Social Time
  • Gentification
  • Representations and Commodifications of “Preserved” Forms
  • The Tourism Industry. Local and Global Implications
  • The drive to preserve/to destroy. The Professionalization of Preservation
  • “Tradition”
  • “Patrimony” 1: Nation and History
Watenpaugh, Heghnar. "Theories and Histories of Architectural Preservation." Syllabus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, [date not provided.]
Heghnar Watenpaugh
cultural heritage
cultural identity
historic preservation
architectural history